A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sometimes-scary adaptation of one of Shakespeare's final plays is all about revenge. The central character, Prospero, has been changed to a woman (Prospera); she's powerful, though not exactly a positive role model, given that she's the one consumed by vengeance. Two of the male characters are seen in skimpy costumes and/or semi-nude, and there are some frightening fantasy images and threats of violence. One character is portrayed as a comical drunk who uses alcohol to influence another character's will. Teens who enjoy Shakespeare may find it an accessible adaptation, but kids who aren't fans of the Bard likely won't be interested.
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What's the story?
Years ago, the duchess of Milan, Prospera (Helen Mirren), was overthrown and exiled with her young daughter. Set adrift on a raft, they wound up on a desolate island, where Prospera managed to enslave the sole resident, a creature called Caliban (Djimon Hounsou). Years later, Prospera causes a tempest that destroys a ship and brings her spiteful brother (Chris Cooper), the king of Naples (David Strathairn), prince Ferdinand (Reeve Carney), and other key players to the island. She proceeds to carefully plot her revenge, which involves, among other things, romantically linking the prince with her now-grown daughter (Felicity Jones).
Is it any good?
In 1999, director Julie Taymor delivered a dynamic, exciting version of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (simply called Titus), but here she seems a bit less focused. Her idea to change Prospero into a woman is a good one, but it doesn't really add up to much. Other ideas are likewise underused, such as matching the playful comedy of Russell Brand to the role of Trinculo.
The production features a visual effects-enhanced Ariel (played by Ben Whishaw) that dashes to and fro and changes into a scary, dark, avenging angel. Other effects -- and the bizarre costumes (made with an endless array of zippers) -- feel flat and aren't particularly fitted to the material. Carney in particular gives a pathetic, marble-mouthed performance as the prince, but many of the other actors are terrific, including Mirren, Hounsou, and Alan Cumming as the sniggering, selfish Sebastian. Overall, even if it doesn't completely mesh, there's still much to like in this TEMPEST.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the use of alcohol in this story. Is it funny? Should it be? What messages does the movie send about drinking and alcohol?
Are there any admirable characters in this story? Is there anyone who isn't acting selfishly? Why is a play about such flawed characters considered a classic?
Did you find the movie violent? If so, how did this violence come across?
- In theaters: December 10, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: September 12, 2011
- Cast: Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, Russell Brand
- Director: Julie Taymor
- Studios: Miramax, Touchstone Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some nudity, suggestive content and scary images
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